A LESSON IN DRAWING YOUR OWN INFORMED CONCLUSIONS ABOUT NATURE
An Educated Guess is a well-informed conclusion based on experience or theoretical knowledge. When you come to a conclusion, you decide that something is true after you have thought about it carefully and have considered all the relevant facts. Scientific conclusions are sometimes formulated by some degree of theory. These theories are carefully thought-out explanations for observations that are based on and informed by a great deal of research and knowledge.
In Mother Nature’s grand plan, species evolved to fit a variety of niches. These ensure that there are plenty of resources for everyone, that everyone is nurtured and cared for, and that everyone nurtures the earth and her resources in return. We can’t always know exactly why some species evolved as they did, but we can gather information based on known entities and conditions to draw informed conclusions. From there, we can “guess.”
In this lesson, we are applying the “art” of making well-informed educated guesses to better understand primate diversity. Nonhuman primates are incredibly diverse in size, shape, and type, as well as the ways that they are “outfitted” to be successful in their ecosystems. We witness this in the forms of the physical adaptations that Mother Nature bestowed upon them. Let’s explore WHY they have developed these adaptations and HOW they benefit the primate species and their ecosystems.
This “Educated Guesses” lesson is a vehicle for you to learn about primate diversity through your research so that you can further understand WHY they are so diverse.
This exercise is less about being right or wrong and more about observation, developing your own hypotheses, doing research, and determining if the facts support your theories. It requires challenging your theories, drawing informed conclusions, and justifying those conclusions with the facts that you uncover. This means that these conclusions cannot be based on your opinion, but rather on the facts that you research—those things that are KNOWN.
While doing this, you will learn about a variety of species and their habitats. You will learn why their bodies are designed for those habitats. You will see why these species need to be protected and their habitats preserved. Nonhuman primates are an indicator species of the health of their ecosystems. If they are at risk, so too is every species with whom they share their habitats.
LARGEST AND SMALLEST PRIMATES
Who are the largest and the smallest apes, monkeys, and prosimians? Why are some giants and others as small as a mouse? What is the ecological niche that they support?
LARGEST AND SMALLEST MONKEYS
Who are the largest and smallest monkeys? This is an opportunity to understand that all monkeys are primates, but not all primates are monkeys. Monkeys are very diverse. It’s up to you to learn where they live and how they live in their ecosystems, and then to develop your theory or theories about why their physical adaptations make them successful there.
MOST UNUSUAL NOSES
Among monkey genera (plural of “genus”), there are some pretty wacky-looking noses. Why? What’s their purpose? How does nose size set certain monkeys up for success? Who has the largest, the smallest, and the most unusual noses? How do those noses make them successful in their specific ecosystems?
WET NOSES OR DRY NOSES?
Speaking of noses, here’s something you’ve probably never thought about: some primates have dry noses (like us, for example) and some have wet noses (like dogs and cats have). That’s pretty interesting! Why would that be? And who has what kind of nose?
LET’S GIVE ‘EM A HAND!
Most primates have hands that resemble our own. What makes primates’ hands unique? Opposable thumbs? They may be a key to our success, but not all primates have them. In fact, some primates have barely a thumb at all. In this lesson, you’ll learn about the many hand adaptations that make primates successful for their lifestyles and their ecosystems. That deserves a round of applause.
LARGEST AND SMALLEST PRIMATES
Food availability is the cornerstone of survival and success. It is the fuel that keeps us alive and well. Just as primates are extremely diverse in appearance, their diets are very diverse as well. Some are herbivores. Within that category, some are folivores or frugivores. Some are insectivores—they eat mostly bugs. There are many categories. Do primate species always fit into one category? Or might they cross over into two or more? What happens when some foods are no longer available, like when seasons change? Who eats what, where, why, and when?
TIME TO WAKE UP!
Biological clocks are also a key to the survival of any species. The times during which primates are awake and active during any 24-hour period also tell you about when they refresh and restore themselves with sleep. Some primates are awake and active during the day. Some at night. And some at hours in between. They all take lots of naps (some more than others). Why? How do available resources affect when they are active and when they sleep? How does awake time benefit all species that live in their environment? How does it protect them from predators? How does it ensure food resources for everyone in their ecosystems? Good questions! Find out how important active times of day are to survival and success.
DO THE LOCOMOTION
Primates travel in a wide variety of ways. They walk on four legs or on two legs, they run, they leap horizontally or vertically (depending on the species), they swing through the trees, they climb, and some use their tails as a fifth limb. How they travel is a function of how they are built. How they are built is a function of how they can most successfully get from place to place within their habitats. Learn about how they move, whether to travel, forage, escape predators, keep pace with their troops, or play. You may wish that you could get around as quickly and efficiently as they can.
YOU SCRATCH MY BACK… SOCIAL GROOMING
Most primates engage in social grooming. It is a behavior called “allogrooming.” It’s an important social activity that serves many important social purposes. It’s literally a case of “you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours.” It’s an exchange of favors that provides many functions. Learn what they are.
NATURE’S PHARMACY… SELF-ANOINTING
Primates use natural remedies to self-medicate, treat wounds, ease digestive discomfort, relieve the itch of mosquito and other insect bites, or to prevent insect bites, to name a few. Finding and using these remedies are skills that are taught and handed down from generation to generation. Teaching and learning behaviors are one of the hallmarks of social systems. Discover the clever methods that they use for illness prevention and remedies.
TIME TO WAKE UP!
For questions or comments, e-mail us at [email protected].